Selsey – Dreamy Synthy Pop

1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?

The OP-1 crank. It’s just so loveable!

Cranking the OP-1

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

For me, it’s the OP-1. It’s a minimalist’s dream because it can do everything – drums, melody, bass, all the layers – in such an intuitive way. I’d make it fully MIDI compatible so I could integrate it into my Ableton workflow somehow; I’d make the keys touch sensitive; I’d give it 2.5 octaves instead of 1.5; and I’d give it a sustain pedal. Dream machine.

3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?

On a trip, I try to keep it light:

  • Nuraphones
  • OP-Z
  • OP-1
  • SP-404 (sometimes / for longer trips)
Travel music kit

To play a show, it’s more complicated! I add to that:

  • Yamaha Reface DX
  • TC- Helicon Perform VK
  • Shure Super 55
  • Zoom H6 as a mixer
Live music setup

I don’t have a commute, but if I did, I’d consider just bringing my OP-Z.

Teenage Engineering OPZ

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

Arpeggios are my favorite musical tool. I really wish you could get the superfine arpeggio controls you have in Ableton on a hardware synth. And as a non-drummer, I would love to find a software drum loop maker as intuitive to me as the OP-1’s finger mode.

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

I bought the Midi Fighter Twister in the hopes of using it to make layered live loops with my iPad the way @KelbyKryshak does, which is totally awesome🤘. I soon realized that I don’t like using apps in my workflow – I think it somehow takes me out of the moment. I’m hanging onto it because I haven’t ruled out making a custom setup for it in Ableton, but that might prove to be more of a challenge than I’m willing to take on. Also, I have the Push 2, so I’m not yet sure what function or value the twister would add to that setup.

Midi Fighter Twister and Olympus camera

I’m kind of an aspiring minimalist, so it’s very possible that at some point soon I’ll say goodbye to it.

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

The obvious answer is my OP-1 – it gave me an explosion of creativity around learning basic music production techniques with drums and basslines and everything. However! My Reface DX has been my constant companion and workhorse in songwriting. First of all, it’s a joy to play.  The touch sensitive keys feel great, with smooth action. And as I am working through the hardest parts of identifying and defining melodies and chord progressions,  it is the perfect companion for me because its keyboard is small and manageable, while being big enough to play bass notes and chords at once. And the voices are so evocative and inspiring.

Selsey’s songwriting setup: Reface DX, OP-1, typewriter, and sake

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

It’s between the OP-1 and the Reface DX. The OP-1 for its all-in-oneness, and the DX for its beautiful sounds, relative portability, and space-pianoness.

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

My SP-404. The sticky buttons kill me (the phat pads I want are on backorder!), and sampling loops into it is such a pain. I love it to death, but at some point I wouldn’t rule out upgrading to a more robust modern sampler like the Octatrack.

Rolabnd SP404SX

9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

The sequencer on the Casio-PT 30 is amazing. You can program it with a melody, and then push one of two “One Key Play” buttons to activate the notes one by one. So when you play it, it’s like you’re playing a solo, but it’s almost impossible to fuck up. You can see me do this in my cover of White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes, around the 1 minute mark: https://www.instagram.com/tv/Bs3KEAyH3k8/. I wish so hard that the OP-1 could do this.

Casio-PT 30 and OP-1

Artist or Band name?

Selsey

Genre?

Bedroom Synthpop

Selfie?

Selsey herself

Where are you from?

Northern California, but I currently live in Hong Kong.

How did you get into music?

Folk singer songwriters in high school got me inspired to pick up a guitar – Iron and Wine, Feist, Regina Spektor, Bright Eyes, Ray Lamontagne, that type of artist. I also learned classical and a bit of jazz piano in high school. Recently, I got really into making dawless synthpop after falling in love with the OP-1 at the MoMA Design Store in New York. I started making videos for Instagram and, well, here I am!

What drives you to make music?

  1. I relish the challenge of learning songwriting and producing music. Sometimes it’s torture but the payoff is addictive.
  2. The community on Instagram has been really warm and kind. People have created a place you really like to hang around.
  3. I just love singing and making music, so I can’t help but want to do it.

How do you most often start a new track?

I am only now learning how to use Ableton (my first DAW), so I’ll talk about my songwriting process instead. I sit down with my Reface DX, my typewriter or a notebook, and my phone to record snippets. I play chords randomly and vocalize until I hear something I like. Record it. Wash, rinse, repeat. Along the way, I try to get a sense of which snippets are more verselike or more chorus-like. Eventually I will have enough snippets to form a song. Then, I write the words, which is the hardest part.

[Editor: Yeah, lyrics are alwyas a huge pain]

How do you know when a track is finished?

When the words don’t make me cringe too hard; when every section feels like it’s part of the whole; and when the transitions between parts are not too awkward.

Show us your current studio

Selsey Studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

You’ll suck at first. Keep going.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

I have a few things in the works. But for now, head to my Instagram to see some of the stuff I’ve done!

https://www.instagram.com/selsey._/


Michael Hell – Minimalist Conjuring

1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?

I think this is a toss up between the fader on the Octatrack and the magnetic encoders on the OP-Z, they both feel great on their own terms so I would say both.

Octatrack Fader and OPZ encoders

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

The OP-Z is great and I think it is almost perfect. The big one is of course the hardware itself. I am currently having lots of issues with miss triggering and double triggers and it’s getting a bit annoying tbh and of course I hear people having issues with warpage of the OP-Z itself and popping encoders. On a lighter note, I would love to have the tonic drum engine (from PO-32) in the OP-Z as well, then it would be perfect.

Teenage Engineering OPZ

3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?

I think it might be obvious by now…. OP-Z.

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

I would love to have OrcΛ in hardware form, I just dreamt of a hardware device similar to Polyend tracker, but instead of a tracker for sequencing it’s OrcΛ.

PolyEnd Tracker

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

I miss my Moog Minitaur a lot actually, the bass that thing churns out is staggering. I also miss the MPC Live at times, it was a really nice partner with the OP-Z. But I found the workflow really boring tbh

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

OP-Z for sure. I love how you can twist and bend a sequence with it.

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

Octatrack, It’s just a stream filled with possibilities.

Elektron Octatrack

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

The SP-404 I love the thought of it, but I hate using it, but I don’t want to sell it. One day I will truly master it! and I also feel like i should enjoy Eurorack a lot more, but I’m actually on the fence about selling all my Eurorack. I’m really down with minimalism. Ohh and the keys on the Arturia Keystep are atrocious, but that little thing is so damn handy.

[Editor: I had the SP404 years ago and sold it coz I just didn’t use it enough. Then I just got the SP404sx model with sd card. It’s strangely a lot more useful. Dunno why]

Roland SP404

9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

Octatrack and QY70 go really well together. The standard midi template on the Octatrack corresponds with the midi implementation of the QY70. So basically you just have to connect them via midi and then start p-locking parameters without even setting up the CC’s. Also realizing that the midi implementation on the MPC Live is actually fantastic once you connect the devices with both midi in and out. the MPC reads all the midi CC settings so you can automate everything on the machine. its pretty incredible tbh.

Octatrack with Yamaha QY70

Artist or Band name?

Grååskala or Graaskala for you non nordics Genre? IDM…. i guess… Glitch… Maybe?

Micheal Hell

Where are you from?

Märsta outside of Stockholm. Currently living in the north of Sweden with wife and family.

How did you get into music?

Played piano and violin as a kid (briefly) but really connected with music through a friend who was doing troubadour gigs at the age of 21. Learned to play guitar and sang to that. Then I went on to study music as a vocalist for two years. Played in bands and such as a vocalist. Got into the electronic hardware thing just a couple of years back, when I wanted to get back into music, but didn’t have anyone to play with… so basically I made a one man band.

What still drives you to make music?

It’s a stress relief thing, I just love disappearing into music. Plus I have a primal need for creating stuff, I guess that’s why i became an engineer by trade so that i can always be in the process of creation.

How do you most often start a new track?

Drums. Almost always drums.

How do you know when a track is finished?

Through my work I’ve learned to adapt to the phrase “good enough”. I know a track is ready when I feel like I have a structure in it or rather a story, there’s almost always imperfections in my recordings, but I chose to honor it instead of shunning it.

Show us your current studio

I’m not a collector in any sense. I have a ‘one-in-one-out’ policy and I strive towards having a streamlined workflow and most importantly FUN. So this is what I’m playing with currently.

Michael’s studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard?

On the subject of writer’s block Björk stated something in her Reddit AMA that really resonated with me. TL;DR don’t force your creativity.

“I think creativity always lives somewhere in everyone, but its nature is quite pranksterish and slippery and every time u grab its tail, it’s found a new corner to thrive in. Perhaps the trick is not to force it and put it up against a wall and want it to be in a particular area. But rather with a lot of kindness sniff it out and wonder where it has gone to this time around. If its in sauce recipes , writing theater plays , paper-mache improv with nephews, discovering new hiking routes or simply trying to figure out a family members sense of humour . I definetly don’t succeed in this all the time, but feel overall things have been more fertile when I trust this creatures instincts and follow it, rather than me willfully reforming it into a circus animal colouring by numbers”.

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

Well it’s not new by any sense, but it is my latest, my OP-Z only album released on Golfshoe Music. Straight stereo recordings of performances, with imperfections and all.

Thanks for having me! Stay safe and creative folks!!


Frederico Chiesa – Ooramusic

1. Favourite knob/fader/switch on a piece of gear and why?

Roland TB-303

For years my main instrument was a Roland 303 and the frequency knob was the thing I used to tweak most. I kinda feel that on every synth my relationship with the filter knob has to be great, or I will not feel comfortable. I have given up on amazing instruments just because the responsiveness of the filter was not what I wanted.
Nowadays I’m way more into ambient, so things changed. Lately I love to play with the portamento switch on my SH-101 to create variations on patterns, it’s kinda funny what comes out of it.

SH101 Portamento

I love when brands uses big knobs, I have huge hands and I need a good grip: Death By Audio is great for that, I love touching their stuff.

Death By Audio Rooms

I love Moog knobs too, with that vintagey vibe.

Moog Subharmonicon

I hate most of the eurorack modules knobs and sliders. It’s damn hard to perform and you need to use a level of care that is not really my thing.

2. Do you have an ‘almost’ perfect bit of kit? What would you change?

I think my mixer is almost a perfect instrument. Its the Play Differently Model-1, and is an instrumental piece for my production and live shows. It is beautifully made, sounds amazing BUT has one thing that was a big compromise for me: no direct outs. Which means that everything I record is always a stereo track, with no possibility of editing later on. It’s kinda good, because forced me to PLAY rather than program, and as a result, I’m finishing way more material. Still sometimes I wish I wish I could mix things better after the fact. Seriously, add direct outs to that mixer and it becomes the best tone shaping tool ever.

Another piece I love to death is the Deluge: that thing can do ANYTHING, it is a brilliant concept, but the decision of not having a screen for such a complex instrument, is sometimes hard to swallow. But I really admire Synthstrom and if their stance is NO DAMN SCREENS, I embrace it. Deluge is at the moment my main brain for live performances.

3. What setup do you bring on holiday/tour/commute etc.?

I hate bringing a lot of stuff when I travel or I’m in holiday. Used to bring many things and never use them. So lately i just bring the Teenage engineering OPZ or OP1. They both let you create full arrangements, even if they have two radically different approaches. Opz works better for electronic / techno stuff, while Op1 is more versatile for ambient pieces (imho , of course).
Lately I’m vey interested in small package synths with lot of power, especially if battery operated. Is great to be creative anywhere and anytime.

Op-1 and Opz

4. What software do you wish was hardware and vice versa?

I would love to have my cassette or tape recorder perfectly emulated in software. That is something that is still really hard to get. The vibe that comes out of real tape is something you need to experience to understand.

Revox Reel to reel

And definitely i would love to have the SoundToys suite as hardware : I use that a lot and I think is brilliant. I can probably mix an entire album only with those plugins.

5. Is there anything you regret selling… or regret buying?

Regret selling …here is the list LOL:
Roland 909, Digitakt, Prophet 6, two Junos 106 (yeah, for a time i had 2…) , the full OTO effects family, my mastering console with the most amazing rack units (API2500, Distressors, Fatso, Bax eq, SSL G comp….)… and so on and on. The list is long and I feel I would cry if I keep remembering…. awh!
Regret buying.. not really, but there is a guy that I bought and sold FIVE times: Elektron Octatrack. I have it at the moment, but it frustrates me so much. Is a brilliant concept and I’m so jealous of people that know how to use it. I’m selling mine right now. Gonna buy again I’m sure.

[Editor: That’s gotta be some sort of record!]

6. What gear has inspired you to produce the most music?

For years all the XOX roland vintage synth. I still own them all, except for the 909. They are simple and straight to the point, I love that in an instrument. No menu diving, no hundreds of functions. They do one thing GOOD.
Recently I think Monome Norns and Op1 gave me a great creativity boost, while way more complex than Roland, they keep an user friendly approach and they are beautifully designed.

Grid, Arc and Norns

7. If you had to start over, what would you get first?

Well, I would buy all the Roland boxes in the 90’s when they were cheap. But probably an SH’101 would have been the right choice to learn the basic of synths. Add a 808 and you are golden 🙂

Roland Ms101

It can be overwhelming starting today : so many things you can buy for cheap. The risk is getting too may synths and never learn to use them in the right way. I have been into modular on and off, and for me that is the most dangerous world: I used to buy lot of modules and then getting lost in them , with very little work done.

[Editor: It’s kinda nice to hear. I’m totally infatuated with Eurorack stuff. But I fear that I’d never get anything done]

8. What’s the most annoying piece of gear you have, that you just can’t live without?

CABLES? I fkn hate cables. I spend a lot of my studio time cleaning and organizing.
Then I hate the need for a computer to record things. Sometime I wish I’d be brave enough to switch to a full on tape-style production.
All of the instruments I use need to have at least one characteristic: do not frustrate me. I only keep things that are easy to understand and give me instant gratifications. I love fiddling with stuff, before reading the manual. If I manage to get something cool, then the instrument is suitable for me.

[Editor: Do not frustrate! That sounds like a good rule]

9. Most surprising tip/trick/technique that you’ve discovered about a bit of kit?

Lately I’ve been blown away by using the tape recorder on the OP1 creatively. Sometime i put the tape speed 2x, record stuff and then slow it down 1/2. You drop the pitch 2 octaves and you get into ambient territory instantly. It’s super fun and easy.
Another great trick I’m using is sequencing a 4 voice synth (like the Roland sh01a) with 4 different patterns that have different lengths. you get really interesting pieces that are always evolving.


Artist or Band name?

OORA / Federico Chiesa.

Genre?

Ambient, Dub Techno.

Selfie?

Frederico Chesia

Where are you from?

Italy.

How did you get into music?

When i was a teenager, playing guitar and singing in a Nirvana tribute band.

What still drives you to make music?

I guess music is my favorite language, and the best way i can express myself. The more I learn and create, the more i feel complete. Many other things make the process worth it, not least finding some appreciation from your peers. The final dream would be to make a living only with music, and that idea keeps me focused.

How do you most often start a new track?

I try to record a new idea every day. Not all of them are good, though.

How do you know when a track is finished?

I never know. I put strict rules on the time I spend on a track and after the time is done, I embrace what i got. I like spontaneity and avoid trying to post produce perfection.

[Editor: That is a really interesting approach to finishing stuff and getting music DONE]

Show us your current studio

Best creative advice that you’ve ever heard? Less is more. As basic as it might seem i feel that the real evolution for any creative is embracing limitations ad create art with the least amount of clutter possible. Try to say one thing clearly and use the best tool to do that in the simplest way.

OoraMusic Studio

Promote your latest thing… Go ahead, throw us a link.

My latest album is called “The Subharmonicon EP”. Made only with the Moog Subharmonicon and pedal effects, is a study on simplicity: how, in a time of turmoil, the clarity of a minimal approach can convey the message of beauty.

https://oora.bandcamp.com/album/the-subharmonicon-ep